In her 12th season at Northwestern's helm, head coach Kate Drohan has built the program into one of the nation's best, leading the Wildcats to back-to-back Women's College World Series semifinal appearances in 2006-07. Drohan took over the 'Cats after serving as an assistant under legendary head coach Sharon Drysdale for four seasons.
After 11 seasons, Drohan's career record of 386-206-1 gives her a .652 winning percentage -- ranking her among the active leaders in winning percentage for Division I head coaches with a minimum of five years at the DI level. In the five-year stretch from 2005-09, NU compiled a combined record of 215-77, reaching the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament four times and becoming the first private school in NCAA history to advance to the WCWS semifinals in consecutive years.
Drohan already has cemented her status as one of the best coaches in Big Ten history, joining three other conference coaches (including Drysdale) as the only coaches to ever take Big Ten schools to the WCWS. Drohan is one of two coaches to make the final pairing in Oklahoma City.
Drohan took over a squad that finished 20-25 in 2001, and led it to a 24-18-1 record in her first season in 2002. Building on its above .500 mark, Northwestern qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 2003, kicking off a string of eight postseason appearances in the next 10 years.
Postseason success has become a trademark of Drohan's teams. Northwestern is 27-19 in the NCAA Tournament since 2003, including a 5-4 mark at the Women's College World Series. Since the advent of Super Regional play in 2005, the Wildcats have won their Regional and advanced to the final 16 in the nation four times.
Northwestern has earned national respect from the pollsters as well. The Wildcats were ranked in 76-consecutive NFCA coaches polls and 78-straight USA Softball polls dating from March of 2005 until March of 2010. NU spent 27 of those weeks in the top 10 of the NFCA rankings, and earned the program's first No. 1 vote in 2008 after defeating then-No. 1 Arizona and then-No. 3 Texas A&M to begin the year.
Big Ten dominance also has become one of Drohan's hallmarks. Since finishing tied for fifth in the conference in her first year, the 'Cats improved to top-four finishes in each of the next six seasons, including capturing Big Ten titles in 2006 and 2008. Northwestern also won the Big Ten Tournament title in 2008 after advancing to the championship game of the event in four of the previous six years. Drohan's career conference record is 140-71. NU led the Big Ten in total league victories in four-straight seasons from 2005-08.
In 2006, Northwestern's Big Ten title was its first since 1987, and the Wildcats qualified for the Women's College World Series for the first time in 20 years. In Oklahoma City, the Wildcats made an exciting and perfect 3-0 run through bracket play to the championship series. NU's finish at the WCWS and in the polls -- No. 2 -- both marked program bests. The 'Cats also reached the 50-win plateau for the first time in school history.
Drohan and her staff earned NFCA/Speedline National Coaching Staff of the Year honors following the 2006 season.
Drohan and the 'Cats then repeated their run to the WCWS semifinals in 2007, again breaking the school record with 52 victories. Northwestern played the nation's No. 4-rated schedule, and earned a program-best No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
In 2008, Northwestern performed a Big Ten double dip, winning both the regular season championship and the tournament championship in the same season for the first time in school history. NU's 18-2 record in conference play marked its most wins in the league since going 19-9 in 1995 during an era when teams played four-game sets against each other.
From 2005-12, seven different Wildcats earned a total of 14 All-America honors under the Drohans -- including a trio of freshmen. Also, NU won five-straight Big Ten Player of the Year (Garland Cooper in 2005-07, Tammy Williams in 2008-09), three-consecutive Big Ten Pitcher of the Year (Eileen Canney in 2006-07, Lauren Delaney in 2008) and four Big Ten Freshman of the Year awards.
Since joining the Northwestern staff in 1998, Drohan has coached 32 National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Region selections, eight CoSIDA Academic All-District selections and 50 All-Big Ten honorees. Eight Wildcats have been selected in the National Professional Fastpitch (NPF) senior draft or gone on to play in the league in the last nine years.
Drohan's accomplishments at Northwestern began from the first day. One season after taking over the program in 2002, Drohan led the Wildcats to a 36-19 record and Northwestern's sixth-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 2003. The 36 wins in 2003 were the program's most since 1995. NU won 12 of its final 17 regular season games and advanced to the Big Ten championship game as the sixth seed in the conference tournament.
Drohan guided the 'Cats to an at-large bid in the 2003 NCAA Tournament and a No. 2 seed in the Regional hosted in Austin, Texas. NU finished the season with the 14th-ranked RPI in the country.
The 2004 season saw even more impressive play from Northwestern. For the second-consecutive season, Drohan led the 'Cats into the NCAA Tournament with a 34-20 record and a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten. Northwestern entered the 2004 NCAA Regional as a No. 3 seed in the toughest Region in the entire tournament.
Drohan coached NU to its third-straight NCAA appearance in 2005, advancing to Super Regional play after winning the Ninth Regional hosted in South Bend. Four Wildcats landed first-team All-Big Ten honors, at the time tied for the most in NU history. The Wildcats won 42 games in 2005, one shy of the then-school record, and rose to a ranking of 15th in both national polls -- the highest rankings for NU at the time. Drohan and her staff were named the NFCA's Mideast Region Co-Coaching Staff of the Year.
After its World Series and Super Regional runs of the last 2000s, NU broke a two-year postseason absence with a spectacular finish to the 2012 campaign. Buoyed by playing the nation's No. 1-rated nonconference strength of schedule, the Wildcats won eight of their final nine regular season games to gain eligibility and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. As the No. 4 seed in the Austin Region, NU upset No. 6 seed Texas in the opening round, eventually advancing to its fifth NCAA Regional Final under the Drohans.
Drohan has proven to be one of the top recruiters in the country, bringing the best and the brightest to Evanston. In addition to all of NU's Big Ten superlative winners and 14 All-America awards, then-NU senior Carri Leto was one of 45 players and the only Big Ten student-athlete to earn a tryout with the U.S. National Team in 2003. Since then, Cooper, Canney and Williams all have earned invites to the U.S. National Team selection camp. Canney and Williams won spots on the 2010 USA Softball Women's National Team, marking Northwestern's first contributions to that roster since Lisa Ishikawa in 1985.
Drohan herself joined the USA Softball Women's National Team coaching pool for the 2009-12 quadrennium. She was named the head coach of the 2010 Futures National Team, leading the squad at the 2010 World Cup of Softball. She was slated to coach the National Team at the 2011 Japan Cup before that tournament was canceled after an earthquake and tsunami decimated the host city of Sendai.
During Drohan's time as an assistant coach in Evanston, the Wildcats put together three 30-plus win seasons, highlighted by an NCAA Regional appearance in 2000.
After the 2000 season, Drohan was promoted to associate head coach and took on further responsibilities within the program. In early 2001, Drysdale informed the administration that she would step down as head coach at the end of the spring. Shortly after that announcement, Athletic Director Rick Taylor announced that Drohan would become NU's head softball coach.
Drohan came to Evanston from Boston College, where she had served as an assistant coach for the Eagles for two seasons. There she served as assistant softball coach and assistant athletic director for facilities from 1995-97. In addition to her duties with the softball team, Drohan worked game operations and administration with the Eagles.
A much respected and sought-after clinician, Drohan has delivered lectures to players, coaches and students of the game across the country. Beyond the softball arena, the business community has shown a strong interest in the leadership tools Drohan has developed within the program, leading to speaking engagements in the management world as well.
Drohan earned her bachelor's degree in biology from Providence in May of 1995. As a member of the Providence softball team, she was named to the All-Big East team in 1992, 1994 and 1995.